+ inload: Using a limited palette +

+ Using a limited palette + 

+ The Iron Hands I showed in the previous post are nearly completed, with little left to do beyond weathering, battle damage and suchlike to add some realism. I thought I'd do a post on that later, and thought it'd be a good idea to show them beforehand, to show the difference a little grit gives a model.

+ Helpfully, I'd been caught my a minor enthusiasm to use a limited palette for these Iron Hands, and thought those WIPs would be a great time to talk about the theory and practice. +

+ Selecting a limited palette +

+ The black and white nature of Iron Hands made selecting the palette fairly simple. I used the following paints:
  • Vallejo white – this doesn't go as chalky as Citadel white, and I find it works better for mixing.
  • Abaddon black – still not convinced about this, but given my minor prejudice against using pure black, perhaps that's understandable.
  • Fenris grey – a lovely cool blue-grey that forms the key to the theory.
  • Boltgun metal.
  • Warlock(?) purple – not sure on the name of this paint, it may be another. In any case, a nice strong imperial purple.
  • Graveyard(?) earth – again, the name may be slightly different.
+ In addition to this palette, I used Agrellan earth textured paint (same hue as the brown I used) for the basing and Mithril silver to pick out the silver on the hands. +

+ Painting black (and white) +

+ When painting any colour on miniatures, the basic concept is that you're creating the illusion of size by exaggerating the tonal change – that is, because the models are small (not far away, Father Dougal), you need to add artificial highlights and shading to simulate the effect that light would have on a large, distant object. Ideally, you want to work from very dark to very light; it's this contrast that provides the illusion and interest. 

+ In order to add interest, you're usually shifting the hue a little, too – but in the case of black, this is not necessarily the case. You can go for a completely neutral miniature using just black and white, and working through tones of grey; but this tends to lead to a dead, lifeless-looking miniature because the eye is attracted to hue.

+ The tonal range on a miniature (the difference between the lightest part and the darkest part) is most striking when you work from near-black to near-white. The problem for black colour schemes is working through this range and keeping the miniature interesting and still appearing overall black (the same applies to white, from the other direction).

+ So, when painting black (or white) miniatures, I find it best to decide on a colour to work through. It really doesn't matter what colour you use as long as you're consistent. Red and yellow don't tend to work quite as easily, because they go muddy when darkened; so if you want to try it out I'd recommend using a blue or green. For the purpose of this blog post, I'll use the term 'core colour' to refer to the hue you've chosen.

+ 'Black' miniatures can thus be thought of actually simply a very dark hue of your core colour (in this case, blue-grey), which makes things infinitely easier to shade as you still have pure black (darker than the base colour) to work towards.  +

+ The benefits of a limited palette +

  • Much like cooking, using a limited palette also makes things like proportions of colours and mixes easier to remember, as there are fewer basic 'ingredients'.
  • A limited palette also tends to lead to a more striking effect. Using lots of different colours on a miniature will increase the chances of a colour combination that just doesn't work, for whatever reason. 
  • Thirdly, using a limited palette is a great way to concentrate on tone – that is the relative lightness or darkness of a colour – without complicating things with the addition of multiple hues. 

+ This last point is particularly marked with black and white, as they are extreme tones; and therefore have to be handled subtly. On a black miniature, the tonal range is going to be heavily shifted to the darker end, but you still need to work through the whole range. 

+ Painting black +

+ The obvious question is then 'but doesn't that just mean you're painting the miniature your core colour?' Essentially, yes. The difference between a black miniature and a miniature of a particular hue is how the tonal range is applied. 

+ On the shoulder pad of this mid-blue miniature, the range still works from a near-black extreme shade to a near-white extreme highlight, but the main hue (mid blue) dominates. It covers roughly two thirds of the area, with the remaining third a smooth and gradual transition between the midtone and the lighter highlights and darker shades. 

+ On a black miniature, the midtone is already near black. It covers roughly ninety per cent of the area, with the highlight (near white) very restricted and the transition from midtone to highlight much sharper. The shade (pure black) cover more of the area, and the transition between it and the midtone is much less marked. +

+ These proportions can be roughly reversed for white. Note in both the black and the white areas of these Iron Hands, the same core colour is used. This is because I'm sticking with a limited palette, but you could quite easily have (say) a cool core colour for the black and a warm core colour for the white to intentionally create contrast. +

+ Other bits +

+ With the majority of the Iron Hands armour being black, and the the remainder white, they're quick to paint. However, one common pitfall of a limited palette is that you're then stuck with either adding colours for minor details, or ignoring them. This is where your accent colours come in.

+ Black and white go with any hues because they are essentially just a very light tint and a very dark shade of whatever colour you choose. The two marines below have their eyes painted in different accent colours: one green, one purple. Generally, I recommend you stick with one accent colour across an army; but with black and white you can easily experiment with two or even more. Just remember to keep these areas small – you want the overall impact to remain black. For these Iron Hands, the green-eyed one was a test model, and I decided to switch to purple for my final palette. +

+ If you do decide to stick with just one accent colour, because you want to use a limited palette, you can sometimes run into awkward areas. For example, purity seals. Traditionally, these are painted with red sealing wax and cream parchment. I could either add red and yellow to my palette, or adapt. This is where desaturation of your midtones can be used. 

+ The marine below left has the sealing wax painted with a mix of the core blue-grey and purple. This fits neatly into the scheme because the core colour was used in both the black and the white, but doesn't leap out as eye-catching bright red would. 

+ Note that the face and hair of the left-hand marine are also painted with the core palette. I used a mix of the brown and the purple, then desaturated it by adding a little black and white. More white and brown was added to highlight. This gives a corpse-like pallor which fits nicely with the Iron Hands, but still looks human. +

+ The pouches on the marine on the right are painted with the core blue-grey, darkened a touch with black. +

The eye is drawn to high contrast areas, so if you don't want minor details like this to stand out, do not highlight and shade them as much as other areas. Add just enough to give the area shape. +

+ Conclusion +

+ I hope that's been a useful post. Next time, I'll be showing these same marines with some battle damage and weathering, and 0 hopefully – showing how these add realism. +

+ All Hands on deck +

+ Well, that was unexpected. I toyed around with a few ideas for Chapters (thanks to Joe McMahon for the Raptors idea – keep your eyes peeled for a Salamander painted in a more gritty green than usual), and ended up deciding on using some colours and techniques in which I thought I needed some practise – namely black and white. +

+ I've had a weakness (which they probably wouldn't appreciate!) for Iron Hands for a while. A classic Rogue Trader Chapter, I thought they'd be a fun challenge; so I'm going to try and paint the whole group over the course of a week. 

+ First up is a WIP marine in mark VII armour. I haven't painted one of these for absolutely ages; perhaps as far back as a decade. He was a fun exercise, as rather than using the time-consuming chromatic black approach I'd normally use, I decided to focus completely on tone and used just the following colours for the armour: black, white and Fenris Grey (a blue-grey). This chap took me about twenty minutes to get to details, which I think's pretty good going. 

+ I need to develop the highlights a little more, but the bulk of the remaining work will be weathering, which is where I hope this army will come to life. Model-wise, moving away from worrying about the minutiae involved with a Horus Heresy-era force was liberating. +

+ The Iron Hands scheme's quite an interesting one, from a technical standpoint. Since Tom, one of the other PCRC gamers, has a Raven Guard army, I needed to make sure I wasn't treading on his toes. As a result, I've gone for a very cold, dead black; and will stick to a very minimal palette. In fact, even the eyes might change to an icy blue – I'll need to check with Tom how he's intending to paint his Raven Guard. +

+ More WIPs +

+ The remaining seven of this squad are shown below. Having picked out some highlights, I unfortunately knocked them back a bit too much with a black wash, so they'll need restating. You live and learn...

+ I've steered clear of adding loads of bionics for a number of reasons:
  • I think it's very easy to go overboard. 
  • I prefer the Astartes part to have precedence over the specific Chapter; the model should 'read' as a Space Marine first; and be identifed as an Iron Hand, Marauder or Fleshtearer through livery first and foremost.
  • Lack of bits – I'm sure I'll add a few if I expand the army, but I like the spartan approach.
  • Background-wise, the Iron Hands have taken a step forward from being one-dimensional 'robot marines' obsessed with bionics. There are some nice hints that there are some more conservative marines following Ferrus' ideal of purging weakness by avoiding reliance on bionics.
  • Exposed bionics seem a bit odd to me (though rule of cool trumps realism, of course). I'm sure these chaps have some bionics; but kept safely under a reinforced ceramite carapace.
+ That said, the squad leader (chap with a banner) has a snazzy bionic targeter eye. +

+ The highlighting work done can be seen on these three; black's tricky to highlight unless you start from a mid grey. As you can see, I went for my eternal favourite, the trusty heavy bolter. The brutal belt-fed gun just makes for a great model. I've added a few additional pieces for interest here and there – a couple of Forge World guns and heads are scattered through the squad, and also a bit of kit from the RTB01 sprue, like the knife on the belt of the left-hand model.

+ I have a great affection for the older models, so I like to scatter some hints about the new models, which are far superior in terms of technically production; even if they lack a little of the 'soul' of the best of the older stuff. 

+ The three here show that nicely – it was fun to make an homage to one of the 'transition period' marines (+Noospheric Inload link: collecting-citadel-miniatures.com/wiki/images/6/69/MkVI-with_bolter_4.jpg+) +

+ More built stuff +

+ Making hay while the sun shines, I put together some more marines. Again, I've been fairly conservative with the poses – the Iron Hands strike me as methodical more than anything else, so I wanted each figure to have a definite self-reliant, solid feel. +

+ The as-yet-unnamed Captain, based heavily on the one given away with mail orders, sums this up. This model is lovely; a great updated of the 1991 Games Day figure; but I wanted to give it a bit of a twist, so made a few minor changes to details that didn't affect the overall striking pose. +

+ You'll notice a few servo-skulls hovering around. I think these minor additions will go a long way to establishing the army as Iron Hands. +

+ 40k 7th Edition, Space Marines and Orks +

+ Another version of 40k has been announced. I've always quite liked the turnover of the game – every edition has introduced bits I've liked along with bits I haven't. In any case, I'm of the opinion that a change is as good as a rest, so while I'm not going to rush out and buy it immediately, I'm quite looking forward to seeing what this new edition brings. +

+ Like Ianus, looking forward makes me check backwards, too, and I've been trying to bind a bit of 7th edition forward-thinking together with some Rogue Trader nostalgia. To that end, I decided I'd just have fun digging through my bits box and building some models. No plan, no project; just an excuse to use up those bits that get left over and just seem to grow in the bits box.

+ One happy result of making bigger marines (variously called true-scale, art-scale etc.) is that I've ended up with loads of standard marine bits. Coming back to seeing normal scale marines was quite fun – and being able to assemble things straight out of the box was brilliant fun. I'd really forgotten how much I enjoyed just cutting, posing and gluing! Without the restrictions of a proper project (e.g. this or that style of weapon, or particular considerations of pose and atmosphere), I just concentrated on building some basic marine models.

+ A couple of hours on Saturday saw me building and undercoat the following: 

+ The new tactical marines sprue is awesome! Lovely clean sculpts, better poses than the older version, and the detail is much crisper. I'm not quite sure exactly what GW have done, but the proportions seem to be slightly more realistic than I remember. Perhaps it's just distorted expectation after building the slightly more proportional art-scale models, but I had expected these to look more bobble-headed. +

+ As with all multipose models, they lack a bit of the soul that one-piece models have, but they were just right for a pleasant evening's hobbying. I'd used (or have reserved) a lot of the more esoteric pieces for various true-scale projects, but when combined with the bits box, there were still enough bits left over to make eight marines.

+ I have absolutely no idea how, when or even if these guys will get painted or see the tabletop. As I was building them, I thought it'd be an opportunity to scratch my Iron Hands itch, and I also considered painting them to represent one of the Chapters involved in the ongoing Scallop Stars Purges campaign we're playing. I'm open to any ideas. They'll certainly fit better alongside my Elysian-based guard (which look ridiculously small next to my Ultramarines), so perhaps this is a chance to make a quick gaming army for small games. It'd certainly be nice to have a load of marines that fit on the right size bases, and to have the opportunity to use some of the cool models that are just impossible to convert into truer proportions. +

+ In addition to these, I also started work on some skarboyz for da Black Kuttaz:

+ inload: Imperial Fists sergeant +

+ Begotten of Trazior +

+ I had a little time over the May Day bank holiday, so decided to sit down and paint whatever took my fancy; which turned out to mean a long-delayed return to the Imperial Fists. +

+ The PCRC have been discussing doing a big group project for a while, and we ended up deciding that a 'true-scale' army of Imperial Fists (the only army we could all agree was awesome) would be fun. Because we're all of a certain age, Ian Watson's great novel Space Marine has fond memories for us all, so I'm sure that's part of the appeal. +

+ Starting with a couple of cool bits that I wanted to work into a model (a crested helmet and a set of legs from the Forgeworld Justaerain set), I sat down and began building. +

+ [Notes and SUB-ERRATA] +

+ A little blood spatter was added to the banner using GW's blood effect technical paint (Blood For The Blood God) and an old toothbrush to give the model a Blanchesque touch; reinforced by the netural and minimal base. The overall colour scheme is weathered, warm and dark; I've tried to get a Rembrandt-style feel in the halftones and deep shadows. +
+ Red is an eye-catching colour. As such, each of the three focal points (the banner, purity seal and sword) received a small amount of red to draw the eye. +

+ Things I don't like: weathering's a little overdone; the freehand Fist on the belt buckle is badly executed; and the blood on the sword is ugly. Those aside, I think he's worked fairly well overall. I really liked being able to build and paint him in a couple of hours. Spontaneity and speed don't excuse a bad finish, but as a little project of his own, he was a fun evening's work. +

+ By the end, I'd pulled bits in from all over the place, including from an older abortive version of an Imperial Fists army (the sword-holding arm on the left of the picture). The crested helm didn't make the cut, as I decided I wanted to use this laurel-wreathed Iron Armour helm. It's got a great knightly feel that fits the teutonic feel of the Fists. +

+ As a vague one-off, I felt free to experiment with armament, pose etc. and just make a model I wanted. Sometimes restrictions such as armylists can be useful in pushing you to go for a certain pose, but I much prefer to build models I like and only then work out how they would fit in rules-wise. After all, rules change, but the models are forever! + 

+ Practical: Painting approach and techniques +

+ The yellow was approached fairly organically. I used a desert yellow acrylic spray (Humbrol Matt 93) to lay in an undercoat, then washed the model with Leviathan Purple. I then layered up with various yellows (mainly Golden Yellow), before shading back down with Dark Flesh. This was diluted heavily with flow enhancer and 'anti-drybrushed' – i.e. I very lightly flicked a soft clean mop brush back and forth over the area to brush away the overlying colour, leaving it just in the recesses. The result can be seen well in the shoulder pad transition (though this has also received a later highlight at the bottom edge). +

+ The weathering was added with a tiny piece of sponge (torn from a blister pack) and Charadon Granite. The lower edges were highlighted with a pale cream colour (possibly Bleached Bone). The same colour was mixed with the base yellow to add some harder highlights across the yellow. +

+ The eyes received a blue glow effect. When adding object source lighting, it's critical to make sure that the surrounding tone is darker. I see this effect done very smoothly and cleanly, but it just doesn't look right as the light being cast is darker than the surroundings. +

+ The banner was a last minute addition. I used a dirty white mixed from the colours on my palette with plenty of white for the banner itself; keeping the actual white reserved for the freehand Imperial Fist symbol. I toyed with adding some stripes, chequers or other details, but decided that a fairly plain, no-nonsense identifier suited the paragons of the Imperial Truth well. This also ensures that while the eye is drawn to the banner, it doesn't remain fixed; but instead roams over the rest of the model. +

+ The cloth parts of the purity seals were painted in a different colour to the banner. This minor touch ensures adds a little realism; it's unlikely the two would be produced from the same bolt of cloth, but the similar tone helps them both read as fabric.

+ Tales from Farpoint +

+ I've – very kindly – been nominated for a Liebster award by Space Cow Smith of Tales of Farpoint (+ noospheric inload link: talesfromfarpoint.blogspot.co.uk +) and sundry others. +

+ From what I gather, the idea behind the Liebsters is to bring smaller blogs to broader attention, which seems a lovely idea – so thanks very much. A brief delving into the noosphere reveals that there are a few different versions of the Liebsters, which work a bit like a chain letter (only without the portents of dooooom). The stock images are a big frilly, so I thought I'd have a quick pop at 
making a slightly more sinister one myself (which you can see at the top of this entry).

+ Like a chain letter, the award comes with a number of suggestions for how to respond: answering 11 questions set by the awarding poster; and then nominating 11 further blogs for the award. So, without further ado:

+ 11 Questions +

+ 1. What inspired you to start up your blog?

+ I've really enjoyed blogging on discussion fora for a number of years. There's great ideas, feedback and discussion; but because I posted on different boards, it had become a bit difficult to track where things were. This was a bit of a pain when I wanted to refer to an old paint recipe, for example, so I thought I'd start a blog to keep everything in one place.

+ It's also a chance to make longer posts and write a bit more thoughtfully than 'here's a model'; so it also provides a bit of a soapbox so I can prattle on in my own space! +

The venerable Mercato Stipent
+ 2. What is your favourite miniature of all time?

+ Tough question... I've always been a bit wary about favourites, as they change so often. Off the top of my head, I'd include the Epic-scale Reaver Titan, as it was one model I remember returning to over and over again in the back of old White Dwarfs.

+ 3. What do you enjoy most about your hobby? Be it painting, converting, collecting or gaming! +
+ Whenever I get bored with converting, I can do a little painting. When I get burnt out on that, I can play a game. If I'm feeling inspired, I'll write a story. For that reason, I think it's the variety more than any one aspect. Were I forced to choose, I think I'd plump for painting. I find it fantastically relaxing and rewarding. +
+ 4. What inspires you?
+ Mostly, other talented hobbyists. When I first found other miniature enthusiasts on the internet, I was blown away by their talent and imagination. It's pushed me on ever since. I also find a lot of inspiration from real-world history – in particular, prehistory and Classical history. There's such a well of different worldviews, aesthetics, and philosophies that whatever you're after, you'll generally find something so different that it really catches your mind. 

+ Secondly, artists. There's far too many to list here, but diving into a book of art is sure to inspire. I go to as many art shows, galleries and museums as I can in order to pick up some ideas; then try and fit them into my work. A selection off the top of my head: Goya – particularly Saturn Devouring His Son; the Chauvet cave art; the Pergamon Altar; Carravaggio and similar baroque work; Klee's blue work. +

+ More directly related to miniatures; John Blanche's work – the titanic scale is endlessly evocative of the senselessness of his universes; and Paul Bonner – just fell in love with his ork and Guard pencils from the Rogue Trader era. +

+ Finally; I find etymology inspiring. Studying the roots of words open up whole webs of links and connections that can fire the imagination for your artwork. +

+ 5. What book/movie or computergame deserves its own miniatures range?

+ Hmm... Portal? Half-Life? Can I fold those together? There are some great concepts in there; and nice reworking of classic themes. I'd especially love to see a squad of the marines from the expansion pack. 

+ Other than that, I think Quake had a great aesthetic, even if it was a little too grunge-brown! I'd struggle to think of many books that I'd like to see brought over to miniature format; I think the designs would differ too much from people's personal views to be a great success. +

+ 6. What was the first miniature you can remember buying and do you still have it? +
+ Games Workshops' Skeleton Horde, a brilliant box of 30(ish) multi-part skeletons, a load of skeleton horsemen on creepy undead horses, and a chariot made of bones. Total Harryhausen bliss. Like a lot of my mmodels, they got gradually broken down, reassambled and repainted numerous times; I think some of them ended up as converted Androids for Space Crusade, others as casualty markers, others as terrain. The fact you got so many so cheaply meant that you could be really creative with them. 

+ I like old models – aside from the nostalgia value, the individuality – both of the design of the figures and the artists themselves – lent them a lot of character that is often lacking from more modern ranges, and particularly multi--part plastics (which do have a lot that I like about them, so don't think I'm knocking 'em). The downside of the internet is that the creative cross-fertilisation tends to mean that the really outré creations (like the excellent Quar concept (+ inload ref: zombiesmith.com/pages/quar-fluff +) is drowned out under the noise of more popular stuff like 'modern day soldiers in space'. +

+ 7. Do you think that CG designed miniatures will replace traditional sculpting? +
+ No; much like vinyl records, I think there're advantages and disadvantages to both processes, and their appeal lies in different places. +

+ 8. Do you lick your paintbrushes? +
+ Of course, how else can you reshape them properly? :P +

+ 9. What fad in miniatures do you find most annoying? +
+ Er... size, probably. Big things are awesome, of course; but only in context. Giant robots only look cool when they're tromping around a sea of infantry. Also, regular 28mm-scale troops seem to be creeping towards 32mm in height, and even beyond. Coupled with more dynamic poses (which is, in itself, a good development in general), it's annoying when things don't fit on bases.

+ 10. Who is your favourite Wizard?
The guy off Word 2000? Or possibly Windle Poons. I'm not sure if the Dungeonmaster from the classic 80s D&D cartoon counts...

+ 11. Which would win in a fight? A shark or a bear? +
Whichever wins, we lose.


+ 11 Blogs +

+ There seem to be various different limits on the number of followers allowed for the Liebster award, so I'm going to simply pick 11 blogs that I think are fantastic. +
  1. Gothic Punk – a collection of the great John Blanche's work
    (+ inload ref: http://gothicpunk.tumblr.com/)
  2. Ideas Made of Light – sadly, seemingly abandoned, but has some brilliant analysis of a diverse range of artworks that really help inform you for analysing your own work (+ inload ref: http://www.scottmcd.net/artanalysis/)
  3. Anna Polanscak's wonderfully atmospheric Gardens of Hecate. Very much a case of 'models first, rules second', the elaborate and beautifully creepy artworks are inspirational. Very Rackham-esque.(+ inload ref: http://gardensofhecate.blogspot.co.uk/)
  4. Thenickeninja's blog – Voodoo orcs; need more be said? Inventive and beautifully finished miniatures from a diverse number of ranges.
    (+ inload ref: http://thenickeninja.wordpress.com/)
  5. New to me, Andy Walker's blog Lair of the Breviks has a broad range of themes and scales; and he's recently been showing many uses for a great green-based palette. Andy's also happy to talk about how he adapted models when something went wrong, which is a welcome change!
    (+ inload ref: http://lairofthebreviks.blogspot.co.uk/)
  6. Goblin Lee's Miniatures Blog is a treasure trove of classic oldhammer done well.
    (+ inload ref: http://goblinlee.blogspot.co.uk/)
  7. The Apotheosis Codex is a brilliant exploration of an old hand coming back to 40k; and producing some brilliantly imaginative self-sculpted material.
    (+ inload ref: http://apotheosiscodex.blogspot.co.uk/
  8. A group blog with some lovely scratchbuilt terrain and vehicles; plus lovely artwork.
    (+ inload ref: http://beardbunker.blogspot.co.uk/)
  9. Yasmin Putri's (defunct?) artblog, Anything Goes, has some really fantastic artwork that covers a lot of ground that fantasy/sci-fi wargamers will enjoy.
    (+ inload ref: http://yasmineputri.blogspot.co.uk/)
  10. Officio Convertorum is inspirational for conversion and paintwork alike.
    (+ inload ref: http://convertorum.blogspot.co.uk/)
  11. Jeff's blog, Pirate Viking Painting, has the manliest title of all; and has loads of great tuorials. I really like Jeff's painting style and palette, too – lovely and muted.
    (+ inload ref: http://piratevikingpainting.blogspot.co.uk/)

+ 11 Questions +

+ According to the Liebster's 'rules', I should provide the recipients of the award with 11 questions. Since a few of my nominees are defunct or not really miniature related, I'll reluctantly leave them out and instead write a series of questions that are applicable to the remainder, as I think they'll be more interesting to readers of Death of a Rubricist

Apologies in advance to the chaps and dudines from the Beardbunker, as they'll have to find an inventive way to answer as a group!

Here they are, folks: 
  1. Marooned on a desert island or distant planet, you find a cache of half a dozen paints. What colours do you want?
  2. How do you view the results of your work? Do you think of them as artworks, toys, craftpieces, sculptures, gaming aids or something else?
  3. What's the best piece of advice you've ever received for your painting/modelling?
  4. Assume everything goes up in smoke – your whole portfolio of work is gone. Do you recreate your older work or break new ground? Do you start again at all?
  5. What's the favourite piece on which you've worked?
  6. What's your personal holy grail – that miniature that you always wanted, but could never get?
  7. Can you summarise your painting style in eleven words or fewer?
  8. Do you prefer to produce one-off models or groups linked in some way?
  9. Which one miniature do you think best represents your work?
  10. What's the next project on your painting desk?
  11. Can you give three timeless tips to paint like you? +